Why You Should Avoid Drinking Alcohol With NSAIDs

Anyone who has woken up with a headache after perhaps having one too many drinks the night before has most likely reached for aspirin or Advil to dull the pain. These drugs are known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, and are commonly used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and lower fevers. They can also be helpful in fighting heart disease due to their ability to reduce clots, notes OrthoInfo.

The NSAIDs that are the most commonly used are the over-the-counter variety, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (including Motrin and Advil), and naproxen, also known as Aleve (via Cleveland Clinic).However, there are also prescription-strength NSAIDs, including Celebrex, Voltaren, and Toradol. And, while they are effective in relieving pain, they are designed for short-term use only. Long-term use can lead to such side effects as bloating, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Because of these risks, alcohol use and NSAIDs can be a bad combination.

Drinking and NSAIDs can wreak havoc on your stomach

One of the risks of NSAID use is bleeding in the stomach, which can be exacerbated by alcohol use. According to a 1999 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, patients who used NSAIDs in tandem with alcohol saw an increased risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding. It should also be noted that, according to a 2018 study published in Aging and Disease, older adults are four times more likely to experience gastrointestinal bleeding from alcohol and NSAID use.

Alcohol and NSAID use can also lead to kidney problems (via Medical News Today). This is because NSAIDs can inhibit the kidneys' production of an enzyme known as cyclooxygenase. While this inhibition can help reduce inflammation, it can also limit the kidneys' ability to function the way that it should. If you're feeling drowsy, short of breath, or notice any swelling in your hands or feet, you should see a doctor immediately, as you could be experiencing kidney damage.

Everything in moderation

The National Health Service notes that, in general, it is usually safe to drink a moderate amount of alcohol while taking an over-the-counter painkiller. However, it's important to follow the guidelines for alcohol consumption laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to these guidelines, men should limit themselves to two drinks or less per day and women should only have one drink or less per day. If you are pregnant, or think that you might be pregnant, however, you should avoid alcohol entirely. 

In general, you should avoid long-term ibuprofen use, as it can irritate your stomach lining and cause gastrointestinal problems over time. In addition, if you need to take NSAIDs on a long-term basis, you should consult with your doctor when it comes to alcohol use. He or she will be able to recommend the best course of action when it comes to drinking, taking into consideration your overall health and any potential risks.